ANDREW LESLIE PHILLIPS
Errol John (Jack) Emanuel was a district commissioner in East New Britain when he was murdered on 19 August 1971. He was posthumously awarded the George Cross for gallantry displayed between 1969 and 1971. At the time of Emanuel’s death, Andrew Phillips was news director at Radio Rabaul.
NEW YORK - I was posted to Rabaul following Keith Jackson’s transfer to Bougainville. The unrest Keith has described continued, and it culminated in the stabbing murder of Jack Emanuel who’d been sent on special assignment to negotiate with the Mataungun Association.
It was mid-morning and I was in my office at the radio station when local reporter Dick Pearson, who represented the South Pacific Post newspaper, rushed into my office to announce the occupation of a plantation and invited me drive out to see what was going on.
Kabira Bay Plantation was about 80 km from Rabaul and we drove along the coastal road lined with coconut trees with the limpid, azure Bismarck Sea lapping on the black sand beaches, a picture postcard that belied the danger that lay ahead.
Dick had a shortwave radio tuned to the police frequency. We could hear the crackled instructions from the frontline of the battle at Kabira Bay. At one point I heard panicked voices saying the District commissioner had died.
The district commissioner was leading the colonial administration in the Rabaul District and in Pidgin English ‘dai’ can mean different things: sleep, stop as in ‘dispela kar i dai’ [the car has broken down], but ‘dai pinis’ is to be dead.
‘DC i dai’ I heard on the radio. I turned to Dick to confirm the message, not knowing if the DC was dead or just unconscious.
Ahead of us, spewing a thick cloud of dust, a truck packed with riot police in full battle gear - shields, helmets, rifles and batons at the ready - sped toward Kabira. We followed as they turned off the main road and took a jungle track deeper into the jungle plantation.
When the vehicle stopped and the police disembarked, we stopped behind them and accompanied them on the run as they proceeded deeper into rows of coconut trees.
Now we could hear commotion and the crack of rocks from sling shots propelling stones that ricocheted off the coconut trees like shrapnel. We bent low and ran covering our heads, following the police to the scene of what was now a battle.
Police were everywhere holding their shields for protections from the rocks from invisible attackers hidden in the heavy brush. But we could hear their shouts and whoops.
Now, ahead of us about 30 metres, we saw a group of police protecting a prostrate body that lay bleeding, face up on the ground. The police formed a kind of roof with their shields and I realised it was district commissioner Jack Emanuel.
Dick and I looked at each other and knew we had to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible to break the story. There was no police spokesman – the police were heavily engaged and we headed back to Rabaul. ‘Jack Emanuel, DC bilong yumi I dai pinis’.
Earlier that day a group of 10 village leaders wearing traditional face and hair decoration had confronted Emanuel and the police. One of them appeared angry and excitable and approached Emanuel. They spoke briefly and Emanuel took the man by the arm and the two moved away from the main police party. Emanuel was taken into the bush and out of sight. The police waited.
Twenty minutes later, Emanuel had not returned. A small party of police constables set off down the bush path to look for him. They found his body lying on the ground. He had been stabbed to death. The stone-throwing started. Police attempted to disperse the villagers using tear gas. This was when Dick and I arrived at the scene.
Emanuel’s body was found on the track, blood on his clothes and the undergrowth. His glasses were located nearby. Two pieces of a broken rusty Japanese wartime bayonet were found close to his body. Emanuel had been stabbed and walked several paces back down the track before collapsing to the ground.